Panel on transgender issues aims to raise awareness locally
Know & Go
What: Transgender panel
When: 7 p.m., March 24, PFLAG support group meeting at 6 p.m.
Where: Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains
246 So. Church St., Grass Valley
Info: Call 530-274-1423 or visit http://www.pflagnevco.com
Cheryl Hoxsie didn’t see it coming.
When her daughter hit puberty at 12, something changed. The little girl who wore a ponytail and dresses throughout childhood suddenly opted for jeans. When she was 15, she cut off all her hair.
“When I was little, I didn’t really care about gender at all — but once puberty started, it was different,” said Cayden Hoxsie, now 17, formerly known as Sierra. “I remember seeing everyone starting to develop and I thought, ‘This isn’t right — I want to stay how I am.’”
Cayden, a student at Ghidotti Early College High School, got online and began to research how he was feeling. He was amazed by what he found.
“I found the word ‘transgender’ and a lot of videos with people sharing their stories,” he said. “It was amazing for me — I thought I was the only person who felt this way. Until I saw this, I felt weird, like I wasn’t supposed to feel this way.”
As Cayden’s mother, Cheryl went through her own period of grieving the loss of her daughter and gaining a son who was still finding his way. She found it comforting to reach out to other parents who understood.
“I found a support group,” she said. “While close friends and family members may be supportive, it’s so helpful to be with people who can relate, who understand exactly how you feel. It helped me support whatever path Cayden chose — to be there to love and nurture him no matter what. Cayden is so much happier now. He came out on Facebook in March of 2013 and figured out his new name.”
Cayden and Cheryl will be part of a panel addressing transgender issues at 7 p.m. on March 24 at the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains in Grass Valley. Sponsored by PFLAG Nevada County, the panel is meant to coincide with International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual holiday on the last day of March.
Established in 2009, the day is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, said Pat Rose, vice president of PFLAG Nevada County.
PFLAG, formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is the United States’ largest organization for parents, families, friends, and allies united with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
“We wanted to put together a panel as a way to locally celebrate the Transgender Day of Visibility,” said Rose.
“Recently we’ve had more people come in looking for information on transgender issues. We want to reach out to people on their journey of finding resources and support — where to go and what to do.”
The panel will include transgender adults and teens, as well as parents whose children are transgender.
“When a parent first learns their child is trans, I can predict exactly what they’re going to say,” said Rachael Hudson, operations manager at the Gender Health Center in Sacramento. “They’ll ask, ‘Is this a phase?’ and ‘Am I doing the right thing by supporting them?’ Believe me, you’re doing the right thing by supporting them and there are lots of other parents going through the same thing.”
Hudson, who has been a past guest speaker at PFLAG Nevada County meetings and often sees Nevada County families, said the Gender Health Center’s mission is to “provide education, advocacy, mental health and other health services, to underserved and marginalized populations as an act of social justice with a specialization in gender and sexual identities.”
The center collaborates with other agencies to address the spectrum of issues specific to the transgender community in a safe and supportive environment. The transgender community crosses all racial, religious and socioeconomic lines, stressed Hudson.
Debi Stevenson, a therapist in Nevada City who will also be a panelist on March 24, said the support her daughter received from friends and family regarding her gender identity was invaluable.
“But for the parents who are new to this, I want to stress that support for the parents is just as important as it is for the kids,” she said. “It can really be life-shaking and ungrounding to learn that the gender your kid was assigned at birth is not what they identify with. The more support parents receive the better they will be at supporting their kids. And it’s OK to tell your kid who is transitioning that you’re struggling, to be patient with you. For many parents, the acceptance comes in baby steps.”
“How would you feel if you woke up one day in a body you didn’t identify with?” asked Rose.
“In addition to our ongoing support group at PFLAG, this panel will help with the journey of information when it comes to where to go, what to do and what the process is. There are a lot of new studies out there — we’re learning more all the time — and we’re here to help.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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